Locals watching federal fiscal crisis/sequestration

First it was the fiscal cliff, now it’s sequestration.

The U.S. Congress again finds itself running behind—in heading off a financial crisis.

March 1, marks the start of $85 billion worth of automatic, across the board cuts to the federal budget.

The sequestration program sounds like the kind of thing that could cause some to literally ‘lose their lunch.’ Like the elderly clients of the local Meals on Wheels program.

“We fund home delivered meals in five counties for older and disabled clients,” said Joan Cuson, Director of the Area 2 Agency on Aging for Real Services, Inc. “What we're planning on is an eight percent cut, up to as much as 10 percent. Our annual budget for aging services is $11 million so for us, and this is a five county area, for us that would mean a million dollars.”

And that would eventually mean fewer seniors would receive a host of services provided by Real Services. “What we would likely do is watch clients attrition off so those clients who leave services or stop getting a meal for one reason or another, we would not replace them,” said Cuson.

Real Services also provides in home services to frail adults, as well as transportation services.

“You’re trying to help people live their lives with dignity and trying to help them stay in their home, keep them as independent as you possibly can. That's really hard to do when you're not certain that you're going to be able to continue to serve someone,” said Cuson.

The financial crisis originally threatened to immediately halt the unemployment checks of some 32,000 Hoosiers who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks. That scenario was thwarted at the last minute. “We’ve got a guarantee from them (federal officials) late afternoon yesterday that benefits will not be affected at least for the next couple weeks,” said Joe Frank with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

“This doesn’t all hit on the first day,” said U.S. Sen. Joseph Donnelly, (D) Indiana. “This is spending cuts that are over a seven month period and so next week would be one week out of seven months, and it gives us time to continue to work on a solution to this.”

Sen. Donnelly believes that any replacement package should cut spending and raise revenue. “I think having some additional revenue would be important because revenues are at almost an historic low, for the last 50 60 years, and we are not going to be able to get to a place where we have a balanced budget until we significantly reduce the spending and that the revenue piece falls in place.”

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